Category Archives: BISM Tabular

Demystifying “DirctQuery” and “Connect Live”

The terms “DirectQuery” and “Connect Live” are somehow confusing. I saw lots of people are using both terminologies as alternatives. But, the context of “DirectQuery” and “Connect Live” are very different indeed. Therefore, if use a a terminology when we’re talking about a different context then the whole situation might get quite confusing. in this post I try to explain the differences and make it more clear to prevent using a wrong terminology and make sure everyone is on the same page when we’re referring to “DirectQuery” or “Connect Live”.

When we use the “DirectQuery” terminology we are actually talking about connecting from Power BI Desktop instance to an RDBMS type of data source like SQL Server DB or Oracle DB.

There are two types of data connections when we’re connecting to RDBMS like SQL Server or Oracle DB from Power BI Desktop:

  • Import Data: which literally loads data into the underlying model to make it available in memory
  • DirectQuery: which doesn’t load data into model. Instead, it runs multiple concurrent queries on the RDBMS side (data source side) and gets the results. This is good to support real-time data processing.

Note: The same principal applies to SSAS Tabular.

DirectQuery/Data Import Mode in Power BI Desktop

On the other hand, when talk about “Connect Live”, we are referring to the data connection type from a reporting tool like Power BI Desktop OR Excel to an instance of SSAS, either SSAS Multidimensional or SSAS Tabular.

Continue reading Demystifying “DirctQuery” and “Connect Live”

On-premises Data Gateway for Azure Analysis Services

On-prem Data Gateway for Azure AS, How it works DemoFrom April 2017 onward we can use On-premises Data Gateway for Azure Analysis Services. This means  you can connect your Tabular Models hosted in Azure Analysis Services to your on-premises data sources through On-premises Data Gateway. In this post you learn how to setup and configure the On-premises Data Gateway as well as how to configure Azure Analysis Services to connect to the on-premises database(s) via the gateway.


  • You have an Azure subscription
  • You already have an up and running instance of Azure Analysis Services (AAS)
  • You already installed and configured the latest version of On-premises Data Gateway
  • Your instance of Azure Analysis Services, your instance of Power BI Service and your On-premises Data Gateway are all in the same “Region” (Check Prerequisites section below for more details)
  • This post covers the most common scenario which doesn’t involve Kerberos, Proxy Server, OKTA etc…

Reading: If you are not that familiar with On-premises Data Gateway then I encourage you to read this and for more in-depth read this article. You may also watch this video from Adam Saxton discussing On-premises Data Gateway.


As stated in the “Requirements” section, it is important to check if your instances of Azure Analysis Services, Power BI Service and On-premises Data Gateway located in the same “Region”.

The reasons behind that are:

  • Your On-premises Data Gateway MUST be installed in the same Region as your Power BI Service sits in. Otherwise your Power BI cannot see the gateway, therefore, you’re unable to schedule automatic data refresh in Power BI Service
  • To get the best performance and more reliability, you have to create On-premises Data Gateway Resource in Azure side in the same region as your Azure Analysis Services lives in

But, in some cases people created their Power BI account a long time ago and perhaps they didn’t set the right region for their Power BI Service to sit in. Now, they need to create an instance of Azure Analysis Services, but, due to their organisation privacy and security, they don’t want to (or perhaps not allowed to) create the instance of Azure Analysis Services in the region that their Power BI tenant sits in. So they would prefer to create the Azure Analysis Services in another region. In that case, it is recommended to install a new instance of On-premises Data Gateway in a separate server and change the “Gateway Region” during the installation.

To check the “Region” of your instances follow the steps below:

Power BI Service Region:

  • Login to your Power BI Service
  • Click the question mark on top right side of the page
  • Click “About Power BI”

Continue reading On-premises Data Gateway for Azure Analysis Services

Import Power BI Desktop Model to SSAS Tabular 2017 Using Azure Analysis Services


A while ago I wrote a blog post on how to import you currently existing Power BI Desktop models to SSAS Tabular 2016. However, the method I explained is NOT supported by official Microsoft BI tools like SSDT, so you may consider it as a WORKAROUND only until Microsoft supports imploring Power BI models in SSDT. In this post, I show you how to import Power BI Desktop Model to SSAS Tabular 2017 using Azure Analysis Services. It is easy and hassle free.



  • In this post I do NOT explain how to install Azure Analysis Services
  • This method works only for SQL Server Analysis Services 2017 Tabular

How it works

As mentioned earlier it is really easy in compare with other methods I explained in my previous post. Azure Analysis Services is capable of importing Power BI Desktop files creating a Tabular model version of your Power BI model in the cloud. Then you can simply download Visual Studio project file and redeploy it in your on-premises instance of SSAS Tabular 2017. Let’s go through the steps…

  • Open Power BI Desktop
  • Import data from WorldWideImportersDW from any desired combination of fact tables and dimensions. I imported
  • Create some simple Measures like:

Total Sales = SUMX(‘Fact Sale’, ‘Fact Sale'[Unit Price] * ‘Fact Sale'[Quantity])

  • Save your Power BI Model and close the file
  • Login to your Azure PortalBrowse to your instance of Azure Analysis Services
  • Click on “Open” under “Web designer—preview”


  • This opens a new page for fabulous “Azure Analysis Services Web Designer”. You’re right, a web designer for tabular models. How cool is that? Smile
  • Click “Add” button under “Models” section
  • Yes, you got it, enter a name for your model and click “Power BI Desktop” button
  • Click “Browse” and select the Power BI file you saved earlier then click “Import”


Continue reading Import Power BI Desktop Model to SSAS Tabular 2017 Using Azure Analysis Services

Creating Custom Table in SSAS Tabular using Table and Row Constructors in DAX


A while ago I was working on a Power BI project which the customer wanted to define a new table directly in the model. The easiest way to achieve this in Power BI Desktop is to “Enter Data” which creates a new table by typing or pasting in new contents. I was thinking of that project the other day and thought, hey, how we can do the same in SSAS Tabular when there is no Power Query (M) language available in SSAS Tabular 2016. The good news is that Power Query will be available in the next version of SSAS Tabular in SQL Server vNext. But, until then a workaround would be entering data to a CSV file then load it to the model. Another way is to implement custom tables in DAX in SQL Server 2016 Tabular models using Table and Row Constructors. In this post I show you a way of creating custom table in SSAS Tabular using table constructors in DAX. You can do the same in Power BI as the same principle applies. Therefore, in case you’d prefer not to use “Enter Data” feature which effectively uses Power Query to create a new table in Power BI Desktop, then you can use DAX to do the same.


If don’t already have SQL Server 2016 it’s probably time to download and install it. I use AdventureWorksDW as sample database in this article.


You are involved with an SSAS Tabular project and the customer asked for a report in Power BI with dynamic Card so that the values shown in the Card visual should dynamically change based on selected measure from a slicer. You have several different measures in the model and the customer wants to show some of them dynamically in only one Card visual. Consider you have the following measures to be shown in the Card:

  • Total Internet Sales
  • Internet Sales in 2014
  • Total Number of Internet Sales Transactions

You have to create a logic so that the users can selected any of the above measures to show in a single Card visual.

How it works

After you meet the requirements, you’re good to start implementing the above scenario in SQL Server Data Tool (SSDT). Creating a calculated table in SSAS Tabular 2016 is fairly easy. All we need to do is to create a custom table with two columns. One column stores friendly names for measures and the other one holds DAX expressions for the measures. As you might have noticed, I’m talking about creating a custom table in DAX and populating it with values. Continue reading to see how. What we are going to do is to create a calculated table using table constructors in DAX. Table and Row Constructors weren’t available in previous versions of DAX in SSAS Tabular. They are very similar to Lists or a list of Tuples just like what we have in MDX.

I’ll explain this later when we created our sample model in SSDT. Continue reading Creating Custom Table in SSAS Tabular using Table and Row Constructors in DAX

Import Power BI Desktop Model to SSAS Tabular 2016

Import Power BI Model to SSAS Tabular

Note: This article has been updated on June 2017 to support latest versions of Power BI Desktop and SSAS Tabular 2017.

Have you created a robust model in Power BI Desktop and you are looking for a way to import it to an instance of SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular? Hmm, it would be highly beneficial if you could import Power BI model to SSAS Tabular and it potentially saves lots of development time and costs. The good news is that with SQL Server 2016 and SQL Server Data Tools for Visual Studio 2015 it is possible. In this post I show you how to import Power BI Desktop model to SSAS Tabular 2016. Unfortunately, you cannot do the job in any prior versions of SQL Server, SQL Server Management Studio or SSDT.


  • SQL Server 2016 Tabular: You can download SQL Server 2016 Developer Edition for free. Check this out for more information
  • SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) 2016: Down SSMS 2016 from here
  • SQL Server Data Tools for Visual Studio 2015 (SSDT 2015): You can download it here
  • Power BI Desktop: Download Power BI Desktop from here

How it works?

The idea is to

  1. Connect to Power BI Desktop model from SSMS 2016
  2. Script the model
  3. Modify the script
  4. Execute the scripts on your on-premises instance of SSAS Tabular 2016
  5. Open the new SSAS Tabular database in SSDT 2016
  6. Modify the model
  7. Redeploy and process the model

Note: Do not close Power BI Desktop until we completely import the model to SSAS Tabular.


I assume

  • You’re familiar with all required tools listed above
  • You’re familiar with SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular models and any corresponding concepts, security settings and so forth
  • You’re familiar with DAX and Power Query

Continue reading Import Power BI Desktop Model to SSAS Tabular 2016

Connect to Power BI Desktop Model from Excel and SSMS

Power BI Desktop Excel SSMSPower BI Desktop is a fantastic report authoring tool. I have lots of experience working with Tableau as well and I can say, man, Power BI is growing very quickly. Lots of awesome ideas have been added to Power BI and a lot more is coming. But, It might be a question for some of you that is that possible to connect to a Power BI Desktop model from Excel, SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) or SQL Server Profiler? The answer is yes, you can. But, how on earth someone should connect to a Power BI Desktop model from Excel, SSMS or SQL Server Profiler? Well, it could be useful for the following scenarios:

  • Connecting to the model using SQL Server Profiler for performance tuning, monitoring and so forth
  • Again, if you have some performance issues you might need to connect to the model from SSMS
  • You have a complex model and it’s hard for you understand it, but, you are a great Excel developer, so you can connect to Power BI Desktop model from Excel so you can use reach features available in Excel like named sets
  • Just for curiosity! You are curious about writing MDX codes over an existing model, you want to see how your model look like in Excel and so forth

In this article I show you how to connect to Power BI Desktop model regardless of any use case scenarios. So for whatever reason you’d like to connect to a Power BI Desktop model this post will help you achieve your goal.

How it works

Power BI Desktop uses xVelocity technology and loads data into memory. It uses a local instance of SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). It does the job by running msmdsrv.exe file which can be found in “bin” folder under your Power BI Desktop installation folder which is normally under you Program Files. The msmdsrv.exe is indeed the SSAS service file. So even if you haven’t installed SSAS on your machine Power BI Desktop runs msmdsrv.exe. When Power BI Desktop runs msmdsrv.exe it creates a local instance of SSAS. This local SSAS instance uses a random port number so it would be valid until Power BI Desktop is not closed or the msmdsrv.exe is not killed from Task Manager.

Find msmdsrv.exe in Power BI Desktop Folder

So, we have a local instance of SSAS using a random port number. Therefore, we should be able to connect to the instance from Excel, SSMS or SQL Server Profiler only if we know the port number.

Note: If you have installed an instance of SSAS on your machine you can find msmdsrv.exe under “\OLAP\bin” folder from SQL Server installation path:

%ProgramFiles%\Microsoft SQL Server\msasXX.INSTANCE_NAME\OLAP\bin

which XX is your version of SQL Server. So XX would be 10, for SQL Server 2008R2, could be 11 for SQL Server 2012 and so on. The difference between the local msmdsrv.exe file located in your Power BI Desktop\bin folder with the other one you can find under your SQL Server installation folder is that the one which Power BI Desktop runs is a console programme while the other one is a Windows service programme.

How to find Power BI Desktop local port?

There are various methods you can obtain the port number. In this post I explain three of them.

  • Finding Power BI Desktop local port using Windows Command Prompt (CMD)
  • Using DAX Studio
  • Finding local port number from Power BI Desktop temp directory

Continue reading Connect to Power BI Desktop Model from Excel and SSMS